Courses taught

Teaching philosophy, undergraduate courses, graduate seminars

Teaching philosophy

  • The teaching philosophy behind my work in the classroom is the combined result of over ten years teaching experience in different countries and of the influence of the educational ideas of the classical American pragmatists, a central research interest of mine. I started my academic career as assistant lecturer of classical sociological theory at the Lisbon University Institute/ISCTE from 1998-2000. I was only 23 and had recently graduated with honors. Faced with the choice of either enrolling in a doctoral program abroad (in Sussex University, UK) or remaining in my country and start teaching, I chose the second. It was, I now see, one of the best decisions I ever made. First, because I found teaching extremely rewarding: I used to teach large classes of 1st and 2nd year undergraduates whose reaction was often enthusiastic, and learning from my mistakes (like talking too fast or assuming students were already familiar with the background of the classes’ subject) gradually gave me more and more confidence to approach the classroom and become a better teacher. Second, it was in preparation to this particular course that I first started reading the American pragmatists systematically. Especially because Portuguese students are notoriously more deferential and quiet than their British and American counterparts, the educational theories of Dewey and Mead made much more sense to me than the traditional one-way teacher-to-student method.

  • My teaching philosophy is closely related to G.H. Mead’s conception of meaning. Meaning, according to Mead, is an emergent of the interaction between selves and objects: the meaning of an object lies in what it means to us, in our response to it. To understand the meaning of an object is not so much a question of discovery of some objective reality as it is a matter of creation. The implications of Mead’s particular conception of meaning for educational purposes are far-reaching. Meanings cannot be handed down to the learner, but arise only through the reaction of the learner. From this it follows that the communication of meaning is not a process of imitation. Education is a process of creative (trans)formation of meaning. But, of course, education is not simply about evoking any response from the learner; the key question is how and to what extent the response of the learner can be ‘organized’. Education, understood as the “conveying of meanings”, is not a process of imitation, but a process of action and reaction, of social stimulation and response. It is, in other words, a creative process, a process in which meaning is constantly made, rather than reproduced. I subscribe to a theory of education in which the student is not simply on the receiving end of the process. Education is not the transfer of meaning from the teacher to the student, from the parent to the child, from the current generation to the next generation. Education is a process of communication in which the student is as much a meaning-maker as the teacher is. Students are not empty vessels that have to be filled; students ultimately are a source of new meanings and of the renewal of meaning. In the last 10 years, I have had the opportunity to put this teaching philosophy to the test by teaching a wide variety of subjects, at different levels.

Undergraduate courses

Graduate seminars